Written by Samuel Barker
ImageWhen I was 15, Helmet released their landmark album, Betty. At the time, the sounds of the album filled the air anywhere I went with my radio. So, it was pretty special to see my 15 year old son walking around with the album blaring from his iPad as the 20th Anniversary Tour for the album headed to Houston.

This night was a no-frills affair. There were no openers, no stage show and nothing to distract from the music. As the clock hit 9pm, Page Hamilton walked onto the stage followed by the latest lineup of musicians backing his effort, guitarist Dan Beeman, bassist Dave Case and drummer Kyle Stevenson. Not a word was spoken, just the opening harmonics of album opener, Wilma’s Rainbow, filled the air.

For the next 45 minutes, with minimal moments of silence between each tune, the band tore through the entire album. Not a single sound was left unplayed, not a single moment of noise, solo, breakneck start and stop riff nor jazz break was forgotten. The energy was high and the set was nearly flawless.

The audience was a good mix of people, showing how the music reached across all types of people. The young and old were represented, all shades of people and genders were there. It was enlightening. The only thing missing from the old school shows was the amount of crowd violence missing. Gone was the moshing of old, except for a few moments, and in its place was headbanging, high-fiving and bouncing around.

After the final notes of album closer, Sam Hell, I expected a break before the next set, but Hamilton just strapped on his signature metallic pink ESP guitar and said hello to the audience for the first time of the night.

The second half of the set was far less formal, Hamilton and company seemed more relaxed once Betty was completed. They made faces at each other, bounced around the stage more and talked to the audience quite a bit between the songs. It brought a nice humanizing aspect to the evening after the intensity of the first half of the set.

ImageThe picture to the left shows the setlist for the night and illustrates the heavy leanings to classic material the band had. Even when seeing them during the heyday of Meantime and Betty being released, I cannot recall that many Strap It On songs being in a Helmet set. It was a treat to hear these tunes being thrown down with such intensity.

After the set ended in a wall of feedback, the audience cheered until the band re-emerged for a 3-song encore that culminated in their classic tune, In The Meantime. Hamilton’s voice boomed like a madman as the final notes of the night counted off.

For nearly two hours, Helmet played a heavy, hard rocking set that blew the audience away and left everyone walking out having a blast together talking about what they had just seen. That, friends, is a wonderful reaction to the live music experience. Until next time…